On Feb. 14, Arizonans commemorated an historic day — Arizona’s centennial anniversary.
We may have been the last of the contiguous 48 states to join the Union, but we certainly were not the least of them. Now, it’s true, Arizona is not our nation’s largest or oldest state. It did not participate in the Revolutionary War. It does not border an ocean or one of the Great Lakes. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution do not bear a single Arizonan signature.
And yet, there is something about Arizona that is great; something that truly sets the Grand Canyon State apart from the rest.
There’s the Grand Canyon, for one, about which the famous American explorer John Wesley Powell once said: “[its wonders] cannot be adequately represented in symbols of speech, nor by speech itself.”
There are the Sedona Red Rocks, the White Mountains, the Painted Desert, the Petrified Forest, Monument Valley, Saguaro National Park, the San Francisco Peaks, and countless other natural wonders that span across our
deserts and through our forests. There are almost 4,000 peaks and summits in our state alone.
Arizona is home to man-made marvels, too, including innovative projects that have allowed much-needed fresh water to flow to our communities for many years. These include the Hoover Dam, the Glen Canyon Dam, the Central Arizona Project, the Salt River Project and its keystone element, the Theodore Roosevelt Dam.
And we are rich in natural resources. The Five Cs — copper, cattle, cotton, citrus and climate — along with the natural treasures I mentioned earlier, are the physical expression of our state motto: Ditat Deus. God enriches.
We are also an exceptional people; in addition to our storied history, we all share a strong sense of independence and a unique willingness to persevere against the odds — qualities that have endured for generations. These shared traits, I believe, are among the reasons why Arizona has such outsized national influence compared to its small population.
Indeed, the fierce wind of independence that rolls across our desert landscape has propelled not one, but two, of our leaders to national political prominence in just the past few decades. We may not have had an Arizonan in the White House — yet! — but there are few states that can boast a single 20th century major-party presidential nominee, let alone two in Barry Goldwater and John McCain. And let us not forget Arizona’s very own Senate Majority Leader, Ernest McFarland, or Senator Hayden or Mo Udall.
Our state has also nurtured and welcomed respected jurists like William Rehnquist and Sandra Day O’Connor, world-renowned architects like Frank Lloyd Wright, entertainers like Waylon Jennings, Linda Ronstadt and Glen Campbell — even Stephenie Meyer, author of the Twilight series.
And, of course, I would be remiss if I neglected Steven Spielberg. He, too, embraced Arizona’s adventurous, entrepreneurial spirit, turning his teenage movie-making hobby in Scottsdale and Phoenix into a multi-million dollar Hollywood empire.
I was not born an Arizonan; I became one by choice. And it was one of the most consequential decisions I have ever made. I came as young man to attend the University of Arizona. There, I met my wife, Caryll, and together we raised two children. I have not left Arizona since, nor do I think I ever would. Or could.
So, I urge you to attend one of the many events that have been planned around Arizona to help commemorate this major milestone in our state’s history. There is something about the beauty that surrounds us here, the spirit that encompasses our people, and the sun that paints the landscape every morning; there is something different about Arizona. Let’s celebrate that Arizona difference together.